What’s New with Energy-Management Software

June 8, 2009
Lots of valuable information can be gathered from energy-management software

Energy-management software is a product that every facilities professional can benefit from using. According to David Helliwell, cofounder, Pulse Energy, Vancouver, BC, the No. 1 benefit is saving money by reducing energy use and catching demand spikes. “Other benefits include reduced trouble calls and more efficient maintenance.”

Lots of valuable information can be gathered from energy-management software, including data about the facilities costing the most on a per-day or per-square-foot basis. “It’s important to be able to identify inefficient facilities so energy-management projects can start there,” says John C. Heinz, director of sales, Good Steward Software, State College, PA. “It’s difficult to spot these facilities without the right analysis tools.”

Don’t Make These Mistakes

Many mistakes are made because of hard-to-use software. But, you can still prevent these slip-ups if you’re careful …

  • Entering inaccurate or incomplete data. “The software is only as good as the data that’s entered – garbage in, garbage out,” says John C. Heinz, director of sales, Good Steward Software, State College, PA.
  • Assuming that utility providers have made mistakes on bills. “In most cases, cost savings are seen by better management of facilities and ensuring that accounts are on proper rates,” says Heinz.
  • Not investing the necessary time and money required to set things up properly and offer training. “People will spend $1 million for the initial project, but miss out on the final 20 percent of benefits with just 1 percent of extra investment,” says David Helliwell, cofounder, Pulse Energy, Vancouver, BC.
Good Software Features

When selecting the right system for you and your buildings, Heinz and Helliwell recommend looking for:

  • Bill auditing and verification to ensure that utilities send accurate bills.
  • Seamless workflow management to easily enter bills and attach scanned images of the bills to the inputted bill record.
  • The ability to streamline bill payment by electronic interface with the accounting system.
  • Rate and tariff analysis capabilities.
  • The ability to benchmark facilities and accounts in peer groups to identify outliers and abnormal meters, buildings, and bills.
  • Correlation between weather and energy use.
  • A system that fits well with existing metering and building-automation systems.
  • A system that can provide feedback to the appropriate user groups within (and outside) your organization.

Proven Results
Most facility managers who implement energy-management software will immediately start to see ways to save money since they have the advanced tools necessary to report on where savings can start.

According to Helliwell, a state government using energy-management software, after 2 years, paid for its energy-management system two times through identified utility savings. A city government found a $90,000 billing error via energy-management software before the bill was paid. And, a university was able to identify building-control problems and save $58,300.

Heinz has seen similar results. “Most importantly, facility managers and building owners have seen sustained cost, energy use, and greenhouse-gas emissions reductions ranging from 5 to 25 percent,” he notes. He has seen a 12-story office tower achieve a 20-percent reduction in electricity use thanks to optimizing air-handling units, and by keeping better track of energy-wasting anomalies. Incorrect presets on building-automation systems can also be identified with energy-management software.

What’s New
Web-based applications are becoming more prevalent. “Most organizations today require some type of Web browser reporting of energy information, and that trend will continue,” says Heinz. Larger organizations are also using online applications to cut down on IT support and management.

Heinz mentions that new tools are being developed to assist building owners who want advanced analysis tools, but don’t manage a large number of buildings. “Any building owner can benefit from tools that compare historical trends, benchmark against peers or industry standards, give ENERGY STAR ratings, report carbon emissions, track energy-management projects, and show how weather affects usage.”

As energy-management software becomes more pervasive, greenhouse-gas and cost-reporting functionalities will continue to evolve. Retrofits – adding new energy-monitoring equipment to old buildings – will mean that energy-management software can be universally applied to all buildings.

Leah B. Garris ([email protected]) is managing editor at Buildings magazine.

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